The Christian Reformed Church made an express commitment at the 1985 meeting of the Synod to break down barriers and work for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the congregation. The following is the wording of that commitment.
I know a bare minimum of sign language so I sat, unable to understand the near silent conversations around me. I could have asked for a translator or requested that people go a little slower. But I was reluctant to do this. Why should I impose my single handicap on an entire group of people? Is this how a deaf person feels?
Meditating on Luke 9:50 this morning. Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” Sometimes advocacy gets wearisome. It seems like one has to keep pushing constantly to see movement in inclusion of people with disabilities in churches, society, and other people’s lives. My temptation over time is to see most people as being against the work that Disability Concerns stands for. But Jesus pulls me up short on that temptation. “No,” he says, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” That turns the tide. Since most people are not against inclusion, they must be for it.
On October 7, Speaker of the US House, Nancy Pelosi, spoke at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda when a statue of Helen Keller was unveiled. Among other things, Pelosi said, “As Helen Keller said: 'My sympathies are with all who struggle for justice.' In her lifetime, Helen Keller worked for opportunity for people with disabilities, for racial equality, and for the rights of women.”
Good news! Bill C-384, which would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, was defeated on April 21 by a vote of 228 to 59. Thank you for raising your voice about how this bill would have impacted people with disabilities. Please continue to advocate for better palliative care throughout Canada, and for changed attitudes and improved services for people with disabilities.
A few weeks ago, my wife Bev found three tiny birds’ nests in the small maple tree in our front yard. A few days later, I saw finches hopping about the branches. So we decided to get a finch feeder to hang in the tree. Bev bought a feeder prefilled with Nyger seed which soon had gold finches gathered on its perches. What a gift from God!
On the eve of the Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada ratified the UN Convention. Canada signed the convention in 2007 and ratified it on March 11, 2010. The US signed the Convention shortly after President Obama took office, but has not ratified it.
The Olympic Spirit seeks "to build a peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play . . . " No games better exemplify the Olympic Spirit than the Paralympics. See results from the winter Paralympics which ran from March 12 - 21 in Vancouver.
Athlete, actor, model, and bilateral below-the-knee amputee, Aimee Mullins reflects on language and her own experiences in this lecture. For those of us who believe in the power of the Word, we need to take seriously the power of our words as well.
Long ago, or so I thought, people said that children born with anomalies were warnings to their parents that covenant with the gods had been violated. The Latin word for "to warn" is monere from which comes the English word, "monster." Thus, children (and adults) with disabilities were thought of as monsters to be feared, because they were proof that the gods were angered by violations of their laws.
According to an AP article, the US federal government is suing the state of Arkansas because, it is claimed, Arkansas "illegally segregates hundreds of individuals in institutions across the state and places hundreds more at risk of needless institutionalization." The first question will be, what is really provided?
The Reformed Church in America is just beginning to catch on—and catch up—to the Christian Reformed Church’s prophetic focus on disability concerns. After giving occasional consideration to disability issues over the past several decades, we in the RCA are grateful to be welcomed by the CRC in this promising partnership of inclusion...
I read today about Sir James Dyson’s newest product, the air multiplier, which blows a lot of air at constant rate without any visible moving blades. It’s just a big hoop atop a base. It sounds amazing. Dyson and his company have made their living by thinking outside the box about commonplace things.
In my wildest dream for the church, I dream of the day that churches are so welcoming, so eager to have people with disabilities use their gifts, that the percentage of people with disabilities in the church is greater than the percentage of people with disabilities in the population at large.
Why is a church without people with disabilities incomplete? What do we mean by the word “disability”? What is ableism? In what ways are people with disabilities marginalized by societies around the world? What is “healing”? A friend of mine, Carolyn Thompson, directed me to a pithy statement called “The Accessible Church: Toward Becoming The Whole Family Of God” which she helped draft for the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Here are some excerpts.
Although we North Americans are getting better at emphasizing diversity in the workplace, people with disabilities tend to be the last ones that diversity practitioners seek to recruit for jobs. I ran across these reflections by Rob McInness today on why that might be so. He writes,
“Two thirds of Americans with disabilities who want to work are unemployed or underemployed,” says a statement on employment from the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD). What a waste! So many people, so many gifts and talents going unused or underused. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Journalist Ian Brown applied his skills to plumb the depths of raising a son, Walker, who has severe disabilities resulting from a genetic disorder, CFC. In his quest for meaning, among others he seeks out wisdom from Buddhism, from a shaman at a native healing center, and from Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities. As a Christian, I can’t endorse all of his conclusions, but reading about his journey helped to enlighten my own path. It’s something that some of us Calvinists call “common grace.”
The discussion last week after my post about the Tucson shooting brought home to me all the more clearly that mental illnesses do not affect “those people” over there, but they are us. Pejorative labels like “crazy” and “whacko” only reinforce this separation or stigma which hovers over people with mental illnesses. But the people who live with mental illness are not just those with the disease itself, but also their family members, friends, fellow church members, and society as a whole.
The first tragedy, of course, is the senseless death of six people and wounding of several others including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords a week and a half ago. A second tragedy arises from the first. This second tragedy follows on the heels of every random act of mass violence.
A new documentary, "A Place for All: Faith and Community for Persons with Disabilities" by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, is to begin airing on ABC affiliates December 6. Please call your local ABC affiliate and ask them to air "A Place for All." See Interfaith Broadcasting Commission for more information.